The coffee shop culture is well and truly upon us and leading this development is Bourbon coffee. The coffee shop has always been that place to while the time away cheaply, enjoy Wi-Fi access, or even have the first date. Menus have evolved in coffee shops and have now grown beyond just serving pastries only.
My tale is about two experiences in two coffee shops under the same franchise and never have I seen such a disparity in the way things are done. My assumption being that franchises establish, and ensure standards across the outlets.
My first experience was at Bourbon coffee at the Kigali International Airport. This being an international airport and the gateway into Rwanda, I assumed that only the best could happen here.
As soon as you walk in, the familiar aroma of roasted coffee beans, a mainstay in coffee shops, greets your sense of smell. I love this aroma. A giant TV showing CNN as well as helpful staff. These were all good pointers.
As always, the coffee was on point. I must say that Bourbon gives it their best in the coffee department.
Since I had almost 45 minutes to spare as I waited for a particular flight to land, I opted to have a club sandwich along with my coffee. Swiftly made and served with fries, my club sandwich was placed in front of me by a beaming waitress. Sadly, I could not return the smile for what I was looking at was an abomination. My club sandwich had a gaping hole in the top slice and visible to me were the inner contents.
My mind drifted to the chef. How could he let this be put on a plate? Then my attention shifted to the waitress. How could she not have seen the problem with this sandwich?
A polite gesture towards her brought her back to my table and I showed her the problem. She promptly apologised and offered to have another made. I declined and said I’d persevere and eat it but the next guest might not be as patient. One bite was all it took and my patience came to an abrupt end. This sandwich was ruining my experience and I asked my waitress to take it away.
An apologetic manager was soon at my side and gave an explanation regarding the source of bread as the reason for this happenstance. I was still displeased, mostly because of the lack of quality control but also because I was hungry and it was too late to order for anything else. My consolation was the good cup of coffee. I ordered a second one to be taken away.
Cross over to MTN centre in Nyarutarama. Same good coffee, staff a little bit slower than the airport staff and my order for an open croque monsieur came as a closed croque Madame. I was too hungry besides it tasted really good. My bill when presented to me had enough zeros to purchase real estate but this was done in error.
These small but niggling issues point to a larger picture. Management. A car cannot drive itself under normal circumstances except these days technology says otherwise. A poor analogy but the point I am making is that for a leading franchise, I think more has to go into management so that the brand is well known for top quality service and food and beverages. Good food with poor service or good service with poor food is simply not acceptable.
Both Bourbons are open daily, the one at the airport operating around the clock. For the coffee shop enthusiast, first time visitor to Rwanda, web surfer or the first date couple, please do visit any of the two or the other Bourbon locations around Kigali.
Franchise or chain management requires training to establish and maintain standards across the board. To achieve consistency, management must ensure that staff are trained periodically to keep up with the changing trends in the industry. Some of the areas where training is vital include stock management, especially in regards to items that are made off site such as bread. Poor products must be rejected as they reflect poorly on the outlet.
Also, training in service to eliminate errors such as over billing, getting orders wrong and ensuring that food is appropriate before serving could go a long way into ensuring a pleasurable experience.
Bourbon Coffee at Kigali City Tower (KCT) uses the wrong cheese for pasta. This is an example of corners being cut and customers being given inferior product.
The New Times sought the services of a food critic and customer care expert in a bid to improve service delivery. Credit is given where it is due, and areas for improvement are proposed. The author’s visits are spontaneous and he does not announce his presence. Feedback is always welcome.